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Bartender Secrets You Should Know

What Your Bartender Is Really Thinking


We interviewed bartenders from around the country to find out what really goes on behind the bar. Before you step up to order a drink, be sure to check out these tips and secrets.

Photo Credit: John Picken

Know Your Order in Advance


Don’t want to get off to a bad start? Then make sure you know your drink order in advance. Indecisive customers are one of bartenders’ biggest pet peeves, especially when the bar gets crowded.

“Don't wave a bartender down only to fumble around with your drink order,” says Arika Beaudry, a part-time bartender from Boston. “Know what you or your group are drinking before getting up to the bar.”

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Don't  Open Up A Tab


If you’re going to a bar, bring cash with you.

As we’ve reported before, when you keep a bar tab open, you’re more likely to end up paying for extra charges by the end of the night, whether it’s from a friend’s drink or a bartender who “accidentally” added on a generous gratuity, or extra drink. It’s especially easy to lose track of what you did and didn’t purchase considering that you are, after all, drinking alcohol.  By comparison, if you leave your credit cards at home and only pay in cash, you impose a natural limit on what you can spend that night.

Photo Credit: Danielle Scott

Don't Ask for A Frozen Drink


Frozen margaritas may sound delicious, but save them for a proper restaurant.

“Bartenders hate frozen drinks,” says Jessica Meadows, who was a bartender for four years. “If they tell you the blender is broken, it’s probably isn't. They just really don't want to make your frou-frou drink.”

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What Your Drink Says About You


Along the same lines, customers should think twice about their drink order, as bartenders often associate particular drinks with certain kinds of people.

“If you order an Amaretto Sour or Sweet you are probably underage or just turned 21,” says Therese Johnston, who works at a sports bar in Wisconsin.

Similarly, New York Magazine reports that bartenders often look down on men who order cosmos and anyone who thinks Amstel Light is a beer worth drinking.

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Watch Our For Drinks With the Word 'Brown'


When Candice Cook worked as a bartender in Washington, D.C., her bar offered a special free drink to especially ‘obnoxious customers’ called the Brown Squirrel. And by special, we mean the worst drink ever. It is essentially a free glass of leftovers.

“A Brown Squirrel is the draining board of the soda fountain as well as the mat where alcohol and other drinks are spilled, poured into a glass with cola and vodka,” Cook says. “It's pretty gross, and usually caused the obnoxious customer to leave, or at least stop being so obnoxious.”

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Want the Bartender's Attention? Be Patient


As much as customers may hate to hear it, if you want to get the bartender’s attention, you may just have to be patient, or else risk doing something that will make them hate you for the rest of the night.

“At a busy bar, don't wave, yell or say, ‘hey bartender!’ We see you. The best way to get a drink in a timely manner is to make eye contact, have your money ready and be patient,” said Beaudry, the Boston bartender.

According to Johnston, the Wisconsin bartender, you may also want to use a “polite wave” or try finding out the bartender’s name and using it.

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How to Get Free Drinks


Bartenders are not obligated to give you free drinks. That said, if you order enough rounds, you will likely get one on the house. But if you want to improve your odds of getting a good drink for free that isn’t watered down, the best thing to do is be friendly.

“Talk to your bartenders. Joke around, get to know them and if you are ordering all night, you will get a free round,” Johnston said.

And one way to be friendly and start a conversation is to recognize that bartending isn’t just a job, it’s craft. Chances are, the bartender has some interesting thoughts about it.

As Reader’s Digest notes, many bartenders prefer to be labeled mixologists and enjoy discussing drinks they’ve invented and things they’ve learned while working.

Photo Credit: Getty

Bars Are Dirty


Bars may be fun, but remember, they aren’t exactly the most sanitary places to hang out.

According to SmartMoney, undercover investigations in the past have revealed that many bars are filled with leftover lemons and foods, not to mention open alcoholic beverages that gather germs. Plus, think about all the people who get sick in bar bathrooms.

The bottom line is that bars are often dirty, so at least for as long as you are sober, try not to touch too much of the stuff around you.

Photo Credit: curtis.kennington

How Much Should You Tip


The general philosophy on tipping your bartender is to throw down $1 for every drink you get. That said, it might vary based on what and how much you order.

According to New York Magazine, $1 may be enough if you just order a beer, but if you get a more expensive drink, you may want to tip $2 or $3.

On the other hand, if you do choose to open up a tab, it can get even more confusing. Do you just add up the number of drinks and give a dollar for each? And what if you’ve ordered bar food on top?

Johnston, the Wisconsin bartender has a simple rule: Just give 20% of whatever the tab is as a tip.

Photo Credit: Getty

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